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Smelt Bay Provincial Park
Attention Visitors – Important Notice!
Notice of changes to camping at Smelt Bay Park!
- Camping is by 100% reservation, only.
- There are no first-come, first-served campsites available.
- Due to COVID-19, overflow is now limited to one night emergency camping, only.
There have been recent wolf sightings in and adjacent to this park
These wolves could become habituated and pose a risk to park visitors if provided food and not discouraged from approaching humans.
Please read the wolf safety guidelines.
Cougars have been seen in the area
Keep your pets leashed and children closely supervised.
Please read the wildlife safety guidelines.
About This Park
Located on the southern peninsula of Cortes Island, the park is named for the capelin fish that spawn ashore by the tens of thousands. Females lay up to 65,000 eggs on the shore in late September and early October, which hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. These small silver-green, sardine-sized fish draw a variety of other marine life to the area, including salmon, seals, sea lions, seabirds and otters. Gulls, Bald eagles, cormorants, herons and oystercatchers can also be seen here.
This scenic park features a beautiful pebble beach that extends from the park frontage at the south end of Smelt Bay around the shoreline to Sutil Point. The beach is backed by mounds which are believed to have been built by Coast Salish First Nations as a form of defense.
Smelt Bay is the only provincial campground on remote Cortes Island, offering 22 spacious campsites laid out in a wonderful setting in the woods overlooking Smelt Bay.
Established Date: January 18, 1973
Park Size: 20 hectares (18 ha upland, 2 ha foreshore)
All campsite reservations must be made through Discover Camping. When reservations are not available all campsites function as first-come, first-served.
- Campsite reservations are accepted.
- Smelt Bay Park Campground is 100% by reservations only for this season.
- There is no first-come, first-served camping available. If campsites are not reserved they may be used as first come first served on a nightly basis.
- There is no overflow camping available.
Location and Maps
Smelt Bay is located on the southwest side of Cortes Island, 15 km south of the Whaletown Ferry Terminal on Sutil Point Road. This park is accessible by boat and by car via a ferry from Campbell River on central Vancouver Island to Quadra Island (approximately 15 minutes), then by another ferry from Quadra Island (Heriot Bay) to Cortes Island (Whaletown), approximately 45 minutes. Once on Cortes, follow signs to the park. Boaters can reference marine chart #3538 and #3539 for more information about this area.
Nearby communities include: Squirrel Cove, Whaletown, Cortes Island, Quadra Island, Campbell River.
Maps and Brochures
Nature and Culture
- Cultural Heritage: Smelt Bay was established in 1973 to protect existing native cultural sites and to provide camping and day-use opportunities. The mounds behind the beach are believed to have been built by First Nation peoples for defense purposes.
- Conservation: Smelt Bay is named for the capelin fish that spawn ashore by the tens of thousands. Females lay up to 65,000 eggs on the shore in late September and early October, which hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. These small silver-green, sardine-sized fish draw a variety of other marine life to the area, including salmon, seals, sea lions, seabirds and otters. Gulls, Bald eagles, cormorants, herons and oystercatchers are also found here.
- General Wildlife, Marine and Outdoor Ethics Information
- Management Planning Information
The approved master plan for Smelt Bay Provincial Park [PDF]
This is not the original management planning product. This document has been scanned from the original format of the plan. It may contain some formatting changes, however the content is consistent with the original.
Activities Available at this Park
Pets on Leash
Facilities Available at this Park
While fires are allowed, we encourage visitors to conserve the environment by minimizing the use of fire and using stoves instead. Campfire rings are provided at each campsite. Firewood can be purchased from the Park Operator. Fees for firewood are set locally and may vary.
To preserve vegetation and ground cover, please don’t gather firewood from the area around your campsite or elsewhere in the park (this is a ticketable offence under the Park Act). Dead wood is an important habitat element for many plants and animals and it adds organic matter to the soil. You can conserve firewood and air quality by keeping your campfire small. Limited burning hours or campfire bans may be implemented. Be prepared to bring a portable stove for cooking.
A cold water tap is located in the campground. Taps are shut off during the off-season.
Annual Drinking Water System Reports
Pit or Flush Toilets
Vehicle Accessible Camping
This park offers vehicle-accessible campsites in a beautiful forest setting. This campground is ideal for tenters and smaller RVs. Smelt Bay Campground is 100% by reservations only for this season. There is no first-come, first-served camping available. If campsites are not reserved they may be used as first come first served on a nightly basis. There is no overflow camping available.